MDA Matters September-October 2007

by Quest Staff on September 1, 2007 - 10:36am

QUEST Vol. 14, No. 5

Featured in this issue: Howard elected chairman of Board ** Billy Gilman, Bradley Walker, Calvin Ray Johnson to sing on Telethon ** Congressional Gold Medal proposed for Jerry Lewis ** Former national ambassador dies ** Wings Over Wall Street slated ** Telethon online auctions launched

Howell named MDA chairman

Noted pediatrician R. Rodney Howell of Bethesda, Md., was elected chairman of MDA’s Board of Directors at the Association’s annual meeting in July. Howell, who was named to a one-year term as the Board’s leader, succeeds Lois R. West of Hilton Head Island, S.C., who served as the Board’s chairman for two years.

R. Rodney Howell
R. Rodney Howell

Howell has served on MDA’s Board since 1994 and chaired its Scientific Advisory Committee. He’s chairman emeritus and professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Miami School of Medicine, and consults with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Re-elected Board member Olin F. Morris of Memphis, Tenn., was named chairman of the Executive Committee. West, who’s served on the Board for more than 30 years, was elected vice chairman of the Executive Committee. Other officers re-elected to the Board include: Gerald C. Weinberg of Tucson, Ariz., MDA president and CEO; Suzanne Lowden of Las Vegas, treasurer; and Timmi Masters of Beverly Hills, secretary. The Board also named Jerry Lewis to another term as national chairman.

In addition, the Board elected 15 new vice presidents to MDA’s volunteer leadership. They are: Eric Ashcroft of Colorado Springs, Colo., design center manager for John Laing Homes; Don Breckenridge Jr. of Clayton, Mo., president of; Bill Breetz of Shenandoah, Texas, president of Kroger Southwest KMA; Peter Dectis of Allentown, Pa., owner of Dectis Painting; Gareth G. Diem of Lititz, Pa., Supreme Tall Cedar of the Tall Cedars of Lebanon;

Richard Graziano of Avon, Conn., vice president and general manager of WTIC-TV; Fred Greiner of Boone, Iowa, president and CEO of the Fareway Stores supermarket chain; Bill Klesse of San Antonio, chief executive officer of Valero Energy Corporation; Kara Fox-LaRose of Oakdale, Conn., the director of special events at the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino;

Antonio Larrea of San Juan, Puerto Rico, president of South American Restaurants (Church’s); Jim Major of Tampa, Fla., former vice president and general manager of WFTS-TV; Scott Masterson of Garden City, N.Y., senior vice president and general manager of Forbes Inc.;

Jamie Myers of West Des Moines, Iowa, president of the Regency Company; Murray Regan of Larchmont, N.Y., head of operations and administration of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia; and Bert Selva of Newport Coast, Calif., president and CEO of Shea Homes.

Gilman, old MDA friends to sing on Labor Day Telethon

MDA National Youth Chairman Billy Gilman will once again lend his musical talents to the spectacular list of entertainers for the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon, Sept. 2-3 in Las Vegas.

Gilman, who released his sixth album, “Billy Gilman,” in September 2006, also will host several segments of the national broadcast.

The Telethon also welcomes back two fan favorites — country singers Calvin Ray Johnson of Mount Washington, Ky., and Bradley Walker of Athens, Ala.

Johnson, 27, treated Telethon viewers to a memorable duet with Kermit the Frog in 2001, followed by subsequent Telethon performances in 2003 and 2006. A singer and businessman with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, his first single, “I Should Have Been Singing,” hit the airwaves in June, followed by release of his debut album, “Take That Chance.”

Walker, 29, who has nemaline myopathy, has made five Telethon appearances, starting in 1989 when he performed alongside the Oak Ridge Boys. The bluegrass and country music vocalist, released his first album, “Highway of Dreams” in September 2006.

Congressional Gold Medal proposed for Jerry Lewis

Bills in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives seek to award MDA National Chairman Jerry Lewis with the Congressional Gold Medal for his lifelong philanthropy and contribution to entertainment.

In four decades of hosting the MDA Labor Day Telethon, Lewis, 81, has raised more than $2 billion to find treatments and cures for rare but devastating neuromuscular diseases.

The bills have bipartisan support. House Resolution 3035 is cosponsored by Reps. Donald M. Payne (D-NJ), Jon Porter (R-NV), and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL). In the Senate, S.C.R. 1603 is cosponsored by Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).

The effort needs the approval of at least two-thirds of the House of Representatives and 67 senators to pass.

If you haven’t done so, contact your congressional delegation about supporting these bills. See which senators and represenatitives have already have signed on.

Former MDA Goodwill Ambassador dies

Drew Johnson with Jerry Lewis, then and now
Drew Johnson, with Jerry Lewis in 1991, and in 2002.

Former MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Drew Johnson died June 29 in an automobile accident in his hometown of Zachary, La., less than a week shy of his 23rd birthday. Johnson, who had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, served as MDA National Goodwill Ambassador in 1991 and 1992.

As MDA’s ambassador, Johnson met with national leaders, including former President George H.W. Bush. In 2002, he received the MDA Personal Achievement Award for Louisiana and was featured in Quest’s article “Five for Freedom” (September-October 2002). He continued to be active with MDA in his community.

On the 'Wings' to a cure

The seventh annual Wings Over Wall Street gala, supported by celebrities and New York financial leaders, will take flight Sept. 20 at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square. The event, which features a VIP cocktail reception and live and silent auctions, will raise awareness and funds to benefit MDA’s ALS Division research program.

The funds raised will assist the research teams of Hiroshi Mitsumoto, co-director of the Eleanor and Lou Gehrig MDA/ALS Research Center at Columbia University in New York City, and Jeffrey Rothstein, director of the MDA/ALS Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Since its inception in 2001, the event has raised more than $6 million for MDA’s ALS research program.

For more information, visit Tickets may be ordered at (212) 689-9040 or

Bid Up! MDA launches online auctions

With excitement building for the 42nd annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon, MDA is offering a new way for Telethon viewers to support its mission. On August 20, the Association launched Telethon Online Auctions in select markets, including the cities of Detroit, Dallas, Houston, Denver and Phoenix, and the states of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

By visiting, participants can bid for a wide range of bargains, from vacations and get-away weekends to sports memorabilia, automobiles, boats, jewelry and one-of-a-kind experiences. Telethon Online Auctions provide a great way to do early, convenient holiday shopping, while at the same time supporting MDA’s programs of research, service and public information.

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